Carl Brashear grew up on a farm in Kentucky as part of
sharecropper's family. After being educated in small segregated
schools, he enlisted in the Navy in 1948 and underwent recruit
training at Great Lakes, Illinois. After initial duty as a steward,
he began handling aircraft for squadron VX-1 at Key West, Florida,
and was subsequently rated as a boatswain's mate. He served in
the escort carriers Palau (CVE-122) and Tripoli (CVE-64) and
began taking training in salvage diving. Other duties were in
USS Opportune (ARS-41); Naval Air Station Quonset Point, where
he escorted President Dwight Eisenhower; Ship Repair Facility
Guam; Deep-Sea Diving School; the submarine tender Nereus (AS-17),
and Fleet Training Center Pearl Harbor. He also had temporary
duty with Joint Task Force Eight for nuclear tests in the Pacific.
He served in the USS Coucal (ASR-8), USS Shakori (ATF-162), and
USS Hoist (ARS-40).
While on board the latter in 1966 for the recovery of a
nuclear weapon off Spain, Brashear was badly injured in an accident;
as a result, surgeons amputated his left leg below the knee.
He refused to submit to medical survey boards attempting to retire
him as unfit for duty.
After demonstrating that he could still dive and perform
his other duties, he served in Harbor Clearance Unit 2, Naval
Air Station Norfolk, Experimental Diving Unit, submarine tender
Hunley (AS-31); USS Recovery (ARS-43), Naval Safety Center, and
Shore Intermediate Maintenance Activity Norfolk. In 1970 he qualified
as the first black master diver in the history of the U.S. Navy.
Master Chief Brashear's memoir also includes material on
his post-retirement employment and a candid description of his
treatment in the Navy's alcohol rehabilitation program.